The first several years of our marriage my husband and I had very little money and had to watch our spending very carefully. I found that when I went shopping I often saw things I liked and wanted to buy and if I bought them, and we really didn’t have the money for it, I was stressed and not happy. The solution for me was to not go to the store except when absolutely necessary and then to only buy just what I needed and get out quickly. By staying out of stores I didn’t see all the cute things I wanted to buy for my children or home and then didn’t feel badly that I couldn’t afford them. Peace of mind by being financially solvent and responsible far out weighed the momentary pleasure of buying something cute.
When I was pregnant with my second daughter I wondered how I could ever love another child as much as I loved my first. After she was born I quickly found out that my ability to love increased and it wasn’t an issue. When I was pregnant with my third child I wondered how I could ever love a boy as much as I loved my girls, and of course he was born and I found out that I was worried for nothing. I loved him just as much as my girls. After that I quit worrying about it and never wondered again if I had the capacity to love another child coming into our home and lives. In thinking about it I realized that love is like a lit candle that when I light another candle the first candle is not diminished at all in it’s flame and ability to give light, and the second candle’s flame is just as strong. No matter how many candles I light the original and subsequent flames are not diminished and together the candles create even more light.
Many years ago I read a sign that said, “Lord, let me be thankful for dishes to wash because it means I had food to eat.” That little saying impacted me greatly and I have thought about it quite a bit over the years and have decided that sometimes it is so easy to complain while missing the big picture. I have good food to eat and clean water to drink, while I know that many in the world are unable to say that. Even though I had a ton of laundry to do with 8 kids, it means we had clothes to wear and washing machines to do the laundry in. Once when I was helping to make quilts for a humanitarian project we were given very specific instructions on making them with 1/2 inch batting, no thicker. They explained that the quilts are often washed in streams or tubs of water and need to be able to dry quickly. People still wash clothes and bedding in streams or tubs! It’s hard to imagine that since I can throw a load of laundry in my machine in just a few minutes and come back later to clean clothes. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how good I have it. Even in the midst of a terrible migraine I try to remember that I am somewhere safe in a comfortable bed, with a freezer that makes ice for me to use and a shower with plenty of hot water. It doesn’t change my situation but it changes me and my attitude. Remembering that helps me to relax and to focus on the good in my life even in the midst of pain. Another sign I once saw said “There is always, always something to be grateful for.” I believe this! A family friend told me a few years ago that on her mission for our church to Nicaragua that she had a bucket of cold water to bathe from most of the time. I’m sure she would have loved a hot shower daily-something that I take for granted, like having a good car to drive or living in a beautiful area with good neighbors, and family who loves each other. I want to be better at complaining a lot less and expressing gratitude more frequently. “Lord, let me be thankful for dishes and bathrooms to clean, and laundry to do, and noisy family gatherings because it means I have so much.”
Almost 23 years ago my husband came home from work and announced that he was giving up sugar. He said that eating sugar made him shaky. He ate a lot of sugary things because I like to cook and bake and almost always had some kind of treat around. For breakfast he would often eat two pieces of apple pie with cream poured over it. I suggested he just cut back on it, eat less sugary things but he’s an all or nothing kind of person so he didn’t think he could just eat less, so he wanted to give it up completely. For some reason this made me mad, so over the next few weeks I made his favorite desserts, breakfasts and treats but he didn’t budge. He stopped eating sugary things completely (he has more self-control than any one else I have ever met). I was still kind of mad but it was a in the back-of-my-mind mad. I gave up making desserts, cinnamon rolls for breakfast and other treats with him in mind and felt very sad about it. Then one day it occurred to me why I was sad and mad. I would make his favorite pie and anticipate him coming home delighted that I had made it and I enjoyed watching him eat it. He had taken away from me one of the ways I showed love for him. When I figured that out I decided I could find other ways to show that I loved him. Sometimes I still wish he ate sugar because I would like to make something sweet but he’s lost weight, his blood pressure went down and he’s overall much healthier. For me, it’s much better to have him happy and healthy.
When one of my daughters was about 12 she came home after visiting a friend and very excitedly told me about her new discovery “margarine.” “It’s this wonderful thing you can use instead of butter” and she went on to extol the many virtues of margarine. I listened to her (and tried not to laugh) and then explained to her that butter was the real thing and that margarine was just a substitute for butter. I then tried to explain to her that butter tasted better and generally was better for baking and cooking. She looked at me like I really didn’t know anything. I have thought about this conversation over the years about how some things that others have or use seem to be better than what we have, and how we are easily fooled to believe that substitutes or new things are better than the original or old ways of doing things. Of course, some new things are better but just because they’re new or different doesn’t mean better.
In both the Bible and the Book of Mormon we are taught to pray. In Luke 18:1 we are taught to pray always and in Alma, in the Book of Mormon, Amulek teaches us that we should pray over everything including the crops of our fields. Many years ago I bought 2 grapevines and planted them in my back yard. My husband built a little fence for them to grow on, and my neighbor, who had grapevines, told me that I needed to prune them. She gave me instructions on how to prune them and I went to work. I had her look at the first one I pruned to see if I did it the right way and she told me that not only I had done it the wrong way and should have waited until March, and that the vine would bleed to death. She then showed me the proper way to prune the grapes on the other vine, which I waited until March to do. Worried about the dying vine I decided to pray about it. I prayed that despite my ignorance in pruning it that it would live and I would yet be able to harvest grapes from it. I prayed about it for several months, even after properly pruning the other vine. I continued to pray as they leafed out and grapes appeared. Come October I had beautiful grapes and not only did my grapevine not die it produced double the grapes than the one that had been properly pruned. I enjoyed making jelly and bottling juice because I knew that my prayers had been answered. Of course our “crops” today are usually not grapes but the jobs we do. We can pray about our efforts at work and for help with specific problems related to not only our jobs but all areas and aspects of our lives. Prayer works!
My mother grew up with a mother who was an alcoholic who also was bipolar, and my mother never knew her father. Mental health issues weren’t diagnosed as easily in the 40’s and 50’s when my mother was a child, and maybe her life be would different now if her mother could have gotten help. Probably to cope, her mother would board her with people and then disappear. My mother doesn’t remember how many people she lived with throughout her childhood and she once told me that she tried to be the best little girl that she could so people would keep her as long as possible. She once said to me that she doesn’t know how many elementary schools she went to because when people would get tired of her being around they would call her mother and then she would live with her mother for a while and then be boarded again with someone else. Her mother worked in bars as a barmaid and moved around a lot. My mother grew up very timid and never wanted to offend anyone with anything she said or did. She never really spoke her opinion on things to others and rarely disagreed with someone. I think she thought that if she did she wouldn’t be liked and then rejected. Not being rejected was a major theme in her life and that is the background that I grew up in. Children learn from their parents how life works and without knowing it, I learned that’s how you interact with people. When I was first married, any time my husband and I had a disagreement I didn’t want to talk about it. I retreated into myself and stewed quietly full of resentment that I couldn’t express what I truly felt. My husband came from an entirely different background. His family was very blunt, without being rude, and said exactly what they thought and then moved on. They spoke their minds freely and usually without any emotional hangovers. So, whenever we had disagreements he naturally couldn’t understand why I would clam up. He would pester me and pester me until I would talk-which drove me crazy. I felt harangued and in a bind. I couldn’t say what was bothering me or how I felt about something without fear of rejection, and the funny thing is that I wasn’t really aware of why I couldn’t talk to him. I just had a silent fear of talking to him about what I thought and felt. It took a long time and a lot of patience from him and some courage from me, but slowly I learned to trust him and open up. I eventually learned that I could say what I felt and he would still love me. It took him listening to me without yelling at me or putting me down for what I was saying even if he had an entirely different viewpoint. Many times I cried through our conversations because my fear was so on the surface, and it took me examining my thoughts and fears to figure out what hidden rules I was operating on. He learned to be patient and to quit harassing me to talk. I learned that I could say whatever I wanted, in a kind way of course, and it was okay. The world didn’t end, he didn’t quit loving me and he didn’t leave me. Now when we have a disagreement I usually take a few hours to sort out what it is that I’m really thinking or sometimes what the real issue is. It takes the emotionality out of the issue for me and puts me in a problem solving mode, and then I’m ready to talk to him. He has learned that if he gives me my space that I will always come talk to him Of course some problems don’t require time to think about them because it’s pretty apparent what the issues really are, and then we talk it through immediately. His patience and love for me has shown me that it is safe to express my feelings and thoughts to him, and now he jokes that sometimes he wishes I didn’t feel quite so free to express my feelings. That freedom to say what I wanted has spilled over into my relationships with others, my friends, family and neighbors and with people I interacted with at church. I used to feel on my guard to say exactly the right things to everyone not wanting to offend anyone. I rarely offered an opinion or view on something unless it was a safe topic. It was exhausting! Again I had to learn it was okay to kindly say what I thought without fear of rejection. Now I consider myself an outspoken person who I hope is also considerate of others and listens as much as I speak. Life is better with the freedom to be myself.
When I was a freshman at BYU I met this young woman who in looking at her was not very attractive. She was scrawny with poor posture. Her hair was cut in an a very unflattering way and it was frizzy and very apparent she didn’t know what to do with it. She had white spots on her front teeth and scars all over her face from acne. She was what someone might call homely. One day she introduced me to her fiancé who was tall, good looking and even dressed nicely and I remember thinking “what does he see in her?” As I got to know her I noticed how kind she was, how she was the first to volunteer to help someone and how positive she was. She always had kind things to say about others. She was truly a joy to be around and I grew to respect her greatly. As I got to know her fiancé I realized he was pretty corny, and not very bright so it was difficult to have a conversation with him and he seemed a little self-absorbed. One day when I was working with her on a project he came over and when I saw the two of them together I remember thinking “what does she ever see in him” and then of course laughed at myself when I realized the complete turn around that I had down. Sometimes when I first meet people it’s easy to see only their outward appearance, and I have found that I’m often wrong in my judgement of them, for good or bad. She taught me what true beauty is.